The Abner Doubleday Myth – InsideSources

Here is the myth of baseball’s creation: A boy named Abner Doubleday invented baseball in a schoolyard near Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is located near the hallowed ground where Doubleday invented baseball. Two blocks from the venue is Doubleday Field, named after the man who supposedly invented baseball.

There really was an Abner Doubleday. Baseball didn’t invent it. But he invented the Doubleday myth.

Major League Baseball, America’s national pastime, will begin its regular season April 7.

Doubleday’s enduring myth merges three of America’s most popular national pastimes: baseball, beer and BS

As America sought to establish itself on the world stage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it attempted to identify the qualities that made everyone an American. Such qualities – independence, individualism, hard work and Anglo-Saxonism – have sustained our sense of exception.

One of those unique qualities of Americanism was the sport of baseball, which had become our national sport in the decades following the Civil War.

The most famous American sports writer of the time, Henry Chadwick, an Englishman, however, kept writing that baseball was not a purely American game because it derived from a British children’s game, the rounders.

In 1888, Albert Goodwill Spalding, the player-turned-coach-turned-sporting-goods magnate, took the players on a world tour to promote the game. When Spalding and the players returned to the United States, they were celebrated at a dinner at the Delmonico restaurant in New York.

National League President Abraham Mills absurdly declared baseball to be as American as Christopher Columbus and cursed anyone who thought differently. Baseball fans in the crowd started banging their beer mugs on the tables and shouting, “No curves! No curves! »

Mills then organized a commission to prove that baseball was indeed American. Only true believers were assigned to the commission. But he was still struggling to find evidence to back up the argument that baseball was indeed truly American because, well, there was no evidence because, well, it wasn’t true.

But then, as Humphrey Bogart’s character in “Casablanca” puts it, “fate took over.”

The commission received a letter from Abner Graves, a Colorado mining engineer, who told Mills that he had been present at the inception when Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839. Everyone was called Abner at that time.

They were there, said Abner Graves, a group of 6-year-olds playing townball when Doubleday said, “Hey guys, I just made up a game.”

It was there – proof beyond doubt – that Doubleday had invented baseball.

It didn’t matter that Graves was a bum, a thug, and a con artist who would later be institutionalized after murdering his wife.

Who cares that Abner Doubleday was a student at West Point Academy when Graves was playing baseball? For Graves’ story to be true, a 20-year-old cadet would have had to be AWOL playing with young boys in a schoolyard 150 miles away.

The Mills Commission, however, declared Doubleday the inventor of baseball.

Doubleday became an army captain and served as second-in-command at Fort Sumter, a Union sea fort in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, when the Confederacy started the Civil War by bombarding the fort on April 12, 1861. Doubleday is said to have fired the first Union shot of the war.

For this act, Doubleday learned from a reporter that the people of Charleston wanted his head. “Fortunately, I wasn’t there to gratify them,” Doubleday replied.

Doubleday later distinguished himself at the Battle of Gettysburg and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He lived a rich and successful life and died in 1893, never knowing that he had invented baseball. His obituaries do not mention his discovery.

The story continued to be passed down from generation to generation until historians and writers began to look at it with a critical eye and declared it, well, gibberish.

In 1969, the Charleston News and Mail published a story that said Doubleday had taught his troops and possibly other Charleston residents to play baseball while stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island before Union troops don’t move to Fort Sumter. “So it’s clear,” the article said, “that Charleston is the hometown of Southern baseball.”

Not really.

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